Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11
When i started blogging, the thing that excited me the most about writing about my life is the idea of capturing feelings and emotions with a picture, a collection of words, a quote ... It was a mere selfish need to keep my memories safe and alive. I thought it would be a lot of fun to go back to old posts years down the road and re-live some of what i have been through.. It works ... It mostly works when it's about me and not people who read this. This is why i needed the distance. The purpose of these pages on the web was lost when i started writing to please and caring too much about comments i get ... So here .. I said it ..

And he interrupts ...



9/11, 7 years ago, was it?
This was Zee's idea, so here goes ..

I had not been in the States for long, a matter of months actually. I was in Upstate New York, it had not snowed yet. I was going out with Mike, a guy from New York city, your typical white suburban guy and i had made a friend, Claudine, a very unusual little girl who was second generation American of Egyptian origins. We had just made it back from the city having driven for a total of 15 hours that weekend. Come Monday, we all went back to our classes. I was leaving an early class and going to the hospital to have my usual coffee break with Mike when a guy stopped me in the hallway to tell me that they hit the twin towers. I had no idea what he was talking about. I had heard of the towers but did not really understand what the significance of what had happened was. I walked the long hall towards Blackwell, around me people looked panicked and in a frenzy. I probably got scared for a second thinking maybe Upstate will get hit as well, but who was doing that and why? I had no clue. I did not see Mike on the bench and i couldn't wait for him to show up. It was a half hour to the next class anyway and it was all the way up on Adams street. I mostly had this feeling that i should keep moving .. My heart started pounding .. It felt the way war used to feel in Beirut. I felt so alone ..
The class got canceled. It was an ethics class and the professor elected to use the two hours to have a discussion about our feelings towards what happened. I collected some idea about what went on from what people were saying and only then i understood the gravity of the event. I was sad but i was very defensive as well. In retrospect, it was very silly to feel persecuted since what happened did not concern me but i remember the looks i was getting that day. I was suddenly too self-conscious with my long black hair and my Arabic features. The misled discussion covered various stereotypical misconceptions regarding culture and politics and religion, where Muslim got lumped with Arabic with Afghani with Irani .. I still remember my shock that day. I found myself defending myself but getting blank looks and i understood for the first time that some preconceptions and misconceptions are there to stay and are there just because .. I felt that some people will look down on you because they think they can. White America. I understood why on my visa papers it said that i am of color, when i'm pale as a ghost and i understood why at orientation lunch, that lady was making an extra effort to be extra friendly to me and to the Indian guy in the class ... I became too defensive, back in those days, until i got over my insecurities, i would just go out of my way to point out all of what is wrong with Americans so i would not feel i'm the one being attacked for being different.. With time i learned to phase it out, to stick with close friends who will not treat me any less for being Arabic and to try and stay away from stereotypes.. That day 7 years ago, though, i learned all about the bigotry that is nationalism.
Mike and I broke up later that day...
My posts will be as unfocused and all over the place as i am these days .. Far from romance and extroverted to the point of shallow.. but summer will be over soon ..

9 comments:

Joe said...

Excellent!! hmmm sorry i feel like Mr. Burns!! but anywho i liked your post a lot, welcome back :D

Lirun said...

i hear you

Zee said...

When Napoleon tried to cross the Swiss mountains with elephants, no - I guess it was the Romans...
Forget that. Nothing to do with this.
For better or worse 9/11 was a historical moment. I am glad you remembered what happened then. And you phrased it so eloquently...

_z. said...

Nationalism is the cloak for racism and discrimination.

here you are again, expressing my exact feelings, only better...

do you think it is not as much as we perceive it, or think of it to be? discrimination that is..

being looked at with a different eye... we may also be too self-conscious, and it is really not about us anymore. I don't know just blabbering here, but I constantly think about that too... about living in a place where I will always be considered a second class citizen... do I want that? and for how long?

did you break up with mike for political or personal reason?

missed you.

AM said...

i know what you mean, writing for yourself so that you'll be able to come back and remember the days and the feelings on those days ... but hey, sometimes you read back and you think 'aaaaaaah, i was so stupid', you get too tempted to take them out but some, you just keep, no matter how silly they look years later, it's all part of learning ...
welcome back by the way :)
loved your post.

all over the place? gotcha!

Mirvat said...

hi maligno gemelo, what's up?

zee it was Hannibal the Phoenician! the guy from carthage, this is the punic war.. right? or was the punic war against greece?
anyway.. how are you?

_z i missed you too. we broke up for political reasons and i think he felt weird being with me after 9/11, he acted in med school like high school..you know..
but this is all post-the event, things were never of the same intensity afterwards. i always thought that it must be harder on boys too. it was always oh so subtle that you feel weird to complain about it but it's there. in our profession, we didn't feel it because everyone in research was foreign but when i went out and dared to venture out of my confort zone in the village, welcome to white america.. i would have to be either 'exotic' or funny in my little accent .. to be understood.. keep in mind all this very subtle.. like the remaining very subtle chauvanism there too, that i sometimes think i prefer the chauvanism here that is in your face and so you know what to deal with!

Hi am, i know what you mean and it happens more often than none!

Zee said...

I can be honest to you Mirvat, you are one of the few I can: I feel like shit!
In 48 hours or so I fly to Europe, multiple issues, marriage of a former lover, catching up with friends and a "big claw mama" who is determined to gobble me up. It will be nice to see Europe though... there is something refreshing about changing scenes and standing on your original turf.
I am actually really sorry that I can't make it to Beirut this year. I was inwardly preparing and looking forward to it. I was not only looking forward because of you (kick me hard if you want...) but also to ease my heart, learn about the Middle East - learn, learn learn.....
Now what, I don't know. I am financially not solvent, live from my hands to my mouth on a daily basis. It is not comfortable, but that is the way it is right now.
So, how long are you going to stay in Leb - ???
Maybe I will make it next spring, if a miracle happens - or maybe I just have to "want it harder"....

Be save, take good care, bee in touch - love Lukas.

Zee said...

Hannibal? Shit - I need my brain correction TODAY

Mirvat said...

so sorry to hear you're not feeling great :( i'm going into my summer-is-over-this-is-not-fair phase of depression. early in the fall every year i start disconnecting from my body more and more and pretty much i socially hibernate.. it's a pattern that i came to acquiring and over the years, sadly enough, becoming comfortable with.
listen i'm here for a while so don't worry, you have all the time in the world to come visit.
sorry about your upcoming trouble in europe but you're right the trip itself should be soul healing.
faithfully your friend
me